This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Marian Jordan (1898-1961)

Marian Driscoll was born April 15, 1898, in Peoria, Illinois. She was the daughter of Daniel Driscoll, a coal miner from Ireland and his wife, Anna. As it was stated on Fibber McGee Molly, she actually did graduate from Peoria High School (only it wasn't called Peoria Union High School--they only did stuff like that in California). She was active in her Roman Catholic church, where she was the childhood friend (and later teenage sweetheart) of Jim Jordan.

When Jim went off to fight World War I, Marian waited in Peoria and taught music lessons in church. They married on August 31, 1918. The Jordans had two children, Kathryn and James Edward Jordan, Jr.

After returning from the War, the Jordans became busy with vaudeville and toured the country. Eventually, they got to Chicago to try out the new entertainment medium, radio. The Jordans did several shows before their first "hit," a situation comedy in 1930, called Smackout. It was called that because Jim Jordan, who played a grocery store manager, would be "smack out of everything" customer Marian asked for.

Years later, in 1934, the Jordans became Fibber McGee and Molly. Originally, they were supposed to be an elderly couple who didn't quite get things right. The obliviousness continued, but the couple was made younger within the first four years.

One character that everyone loved on the show was the little girl, also called Teeny. She seemed to be somewhere between five and seven years old, with a mouth that never stopped. Teeny was actually played by Marian and was also heard on Smackout.

In 1938, tragedy overtook Marian, as she had some terrible drinking problems. She entered a rehabilitation center in suburban Chicago and tried to get her life straightened out. This was thought to have been a good time as the Jordan children were in high school and college. Molly was written out of the script. The program was renamed Fibber McGee and Company. Most people who knew the private struggles that Marian faced didn't believe she would ever return, especially after the show moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in early 1939.

But Marian astounded everyone by returning to the show (actually took a train alone from Joliet, Illinois, to Pasadena, California, riding in a cheap coach seat) in March 1939. She was back in form. Some people said she was better than ever. She was stronger. And she never touched alcohol again. Nor was it allowed to be mentioned on the program.

Everything started looking up for the Jordans. They had the most popular radio show for many years. In 1953, she suddenly became fatigued. The doctor suggested she take a long rest. She said no. She wanted to keep performing. So the Fibber McGee and Molly program began being recorded from the Jordan house in Encino (Los Angeles). The music was canned (meaning recorded) and the commercials were no longer part of the show, as they were when Harlow Wilcox was the announcer. The show now aired five days a week, for 15 minutes a day. While that adds up to 75 minutes a week, it was still less of a strain than when they had to drive to Radio City West in Hollywood for two rehearsals and, sometimes, two shows (an East Coast show and a West Coast show).

Marian's health continued to deteriorate. The daily show went off the air, but Fibber and Molly became a part of the weekend NBC news show, Monitor. They would do skits lasting anywhere from six minutes to a half hour, depending on how Marian felt. By 1958, Marian had gotten so sick more tests were performed. She was found to have inoperable cancer. Marian kept working for Monitor into 1959 and spent the last two years with the love of her life, Jim.

She died at her home in Encino on April 7, 1961, one week and a day shy of her 63rd birthday. Husband Jim said that not only Molly died on that day but so did Fibber. He never did the part of Fibber McGee again.


Lisa said...

They seemed such a sweet couple on the show. Thanks for the blog! I love listening to old time radio shows and it makes my parents laugh to hear some of the funny parts that they remember from back in the day. I think it brings back good memories for them.

CJ said...

Actually, in 1974, Jim would reprise the role in the TV Movie "The Good Old Days of Radio" along with a slew of other (still living at that time) OTR greats - but no, he would never again do an actual "Show" as Fibber.

Leo said...

My mother was a cousin of Marian, she was Anna's niece and from the same southside neighborhood. She spoke of how much fun they had when Marian and Jim were around. The alcoholism interested me as my mother and father never drank, she saw the problems it could cause.

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